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Finance Minister refuses to answer basic questions about finance

Media Release
Scott Ludlam 20 Apr 2017

Finance Minister Matthias Cormann is either deliberately misleading, or dangerously incompetent, or both, given his inability to provide the most rudimentary of answers regarding his portfolio, the Australian Greens said today.

“Last estimates session Matthias Cormann couldn’t tell the committee which documents he had in front of him in order to commit a billion dollars of public funds to the Perth Freight Link project1. He took the question on notice, and now several weeks later, his answer is, ‘ask someone else’2. The Finance Minister should surely have at least a passing interest in the nation’s finances,” said Australian Greens Co-Deputy Leader and Senator for WA Scott Ludlam today.

In November 20103, Malcolm Turnbull said;

“it would beggar belief that a government could be so reckless as to allow a massive investment to proceed without the publication of a business case, without the ongoing scrutiny of a parliamentary committee and, above all, without a rigorous cost-benefit analysis, and that any major infrastructure project must be subject to a rigorous cost benefit analysis and if it does not pass a rigorous cost benefit analysis it detracts from Australia’s wellbeing”

“Just days before the 2013 federal election, then-Opposition Leader Tony Abbott declared that no infrastructure projects worth more than $100 million would be funded without a published cost-benefit analysis4.

“But it’s not just from the safety of opposition that the Coalition have called for these basic accountability measures. In October 2015 the Coalition’s own motion recognised the importance of significant funding proposals being accompanied by detailed business cases5.

“It’s long been clear that Minister Cormann has something to hide when it comes to the financial arrangements around the Perth Freight Link. Now that the project has been dumped on the scrapheap where it belongs, his excuses for hiding from scrutiny are getting ever-more desperate,” Senator Ludlam said.

“This latest is a new low – finance is apparently not the responsibility of the Minister for Finance.”

Senator Ludlam has written to Minister Cormann as well as the other two Ministers Cormann directed him to, to seek a clear answer:

1
Senator LUDLAM:
Yes. I understand that. Did you or the Prime Minister at the time, Mr Abbott, have those documents at the time the funding decision was made?

Senator Cormann: I will take on notice what specific documentation was in front of government.

Senator LUDLAM: How could you not know? Did you have a cost-benefit analysis?

Senator Cormann: You are obviously asking me questions now about 2014. I will take them on notice to make sure the answers I provide are 100 per cent accurate.

2
Answer:

Detailed questions concerning specific documents in front of Government should be referred to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and the Minister for Urban Infrastructure as the responsible Ministers.

3
http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;db=CHAMBER;id=chamber%2Fhansardr%2F2010-11-15%2F0036;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansardr%2F2010-11-15%2F0049%22

4
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-07/cost-benefit-analysis-promise-check/5850038

5
http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;db=CHAMBER;id=chamber%2Fjournals%2Fdc87bd26-69f6-4fbf-b5ae-eb4ec24d0887%2F0013;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fjournals%2Fdc87bd26-69f6-4fbf-b5ae-eb4ec24d0887%2F0000%22

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